by Marjorie Bardeen . Published: 29 October 2014

The International Conference on New Frontiers in Physics, organized for the third time at the conference centre of the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC), near Kolymbari in Crete, on July 31-August 6, 2014, also included a rich programme of activities for the public. On Friday, July 31, a family outreach programme was held in the Sailing Club of Chania. From 10:00 to 13:00 several hundred people—children and their families—explored ideas associated with how physicists make discoveries, focusing in particular on the recent discovery of the Higgs particle at CERN.

Through hands-on activities, visitors identified Higgs boson signatures, built mesons and baryons from puzzle pieces, collaborated to make an indirect measurement determining the size of a particle and more. They explored conservation of momentum and energy, looked for hidden structure in a “particle” made of clay, studied the particles’ paths through the detectors, helped assemble jigsaw puzzles of experiments and played with memory games of detector elements. The diversity of the material, from computer games to films, animations and cartoons on the physics and life of famous scientists triggered the interest of the potential “future scientists” and also of their teachers. Following the event, most of the teachers expressed their interest in continuing such outreach activities. 

The event was publicized in advance to schools and teachers associations and despite the summer vacations it was well attended. Teachers and students participated in a mini-masterclass, a hands-on analysis of real LHC events using the event display analysis tool. They were enthusiastic trying to find the Higgs bosons based on their characteristic signatures.

The activities were set up in the Sailing Club cafe, Neorio Moro, managed by Kalia Sotiraki, who also made the contacts to the media and local teacher associations.

With a nice view to the old port, parents could enjoy a coffee while the kids tried their hand at the activities, though finally many adults got caught up in the excitement. One mom commented that of course people would be interested because everyone knew about CERN while others mentioned that they were intrigued by the publicity on the local TV. They wanted to find out what scientists are doing as they obviously are having a lot of fun.

The day’s activities concluded with a public lecture in the evening by Prof. Dimitris Nanopoulos on “Echo from the Big-Bang”. The opening of the event by soprano Kalliopi Petrou, fiancée of one of the conference participants, made it an unforgettable experience; the echo of her voice touched the heart and mind of the numerous participants.

This event was possible due to the assistance of several of the conference participants and other volunteers:

Christine Koukoumelis, from the University of Athens, ran the ATLAS mini-masterclass based on the package HYPATIA, and Marge Bardeen from Fermilab, brought seven hands-on activities from the Fermilab Family Open House. Science guides who helped visitors with the activities included:, Nectarios Benekos, Tasos Charitonidis, Guylnara Eggybova, Katerina Foka-Sandoval, Adhey Souvik Priyam, Lydia Tzige, Giacomo Volpe and Stylianos Vourakis who all said that they much enjoyed the event.